Fredonia

Effective today, the Kaibab National Forest will lift the area closure around the Castle Fire that has been in place since the lightning caused wildfire started in mid-July.

Members of the public can now access the area, which had been closed due to public safety during ongoing fire operations, including areas of active fire, and the presence of firefighting equipment and personnel. The public Is advised to have heightened awareness about potential safety hazards and exercise increased vigilance regarding personal safety.

Coconino County Health and Human Services (CCHHS) has received several reports of potential and confirmed human and domestic animal exposures to rabid wildlife.

A recent confirmed exposure occurred near Jacob Lake southeast of Fredonia, Arizona. An individual and a dog encountered a bat that subsequently tested positive for rabies. The individual is receiving rabies prophylaxis treatment and the vaccinated dog has been placed in a 10-day at-home quarantine for observation.

With support from recently added firefighting resources, Castle Fire crews yesterday continued to hold the fire within established boundaries, in spite of above average temperatures and low relative humidity. Crews were holding and patrolling the fire's perimeter as well as extinguishing identified interior hot spots close to the perimeter. Although smoke could be seen from the fire all day, the smoke was being generated from interior pockets of previously unburned fuel that had ignited rather than from any increase in the overall wildfire size.

As hot and dry weather lingers, the Castle Fire is moving through areas of unburned islands of dead and down vegetation that has accumulated over the years. The Castle Fire has been burning with mostly low to moderate fire intensity but holding well within confinement lines. This type of fire behavior will result in improving forest health and wildlife habitat in that area while providing a barrier for future wildfires.

Aerial reconnaissance of the Castle Fire, late yesterday, showed the fire has spread across most of the 19,368 acres of the pre-determined planned area, exhibiting low to moderate fire behavior. Smoke will be visible from the Castle Fire as it continues to burn interior pockets of dead and down trees, along with debris from previous fires.

On Thursday, the Type 3 Team Incident Management Team with IC Brandon Allen will transition command of the Castle Fire to a smaller Type 4 Incident Management organization that will continue to oversee and monitor the Castle Fire.

Smoke was visible yesterday over the Castle Fire as it grew an additional 662 acres while it established itself in unburned fuel east of Forest Road 226 in the Lookout Canyon area. Following four days in a row of no growth, the combination of increased daytime temperatures, light winds, no precipitation and available fuels were enough to encourage additional spread. Aerial ignitions and firing operations were also successfully conducted to help check and direct the fire's movement through the canyon.

The Castle Fire's acreage held at 16,538 today due to more consistent showers over the fire area. While precipitation does have a direct effect on fire behavior, it can be very effective in moderating or temporarily halting the fire's spread. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the fire is over.  Warmer, drier days, such as those predicted in the long-term forecast can provide just enough heat to keep the fire moving through the fuels that are still available in the unburned areas.

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